Charlotte, AKA Charlie, AKA Misfit, took a step into her new abode. It wasn’t much, not a mansion or a penthouse or anything crazy like that. Just a second story apartment in a quiet New York neighborhood. It had been two weeks of living in Motel 6’s since she’d left the team she’d never officially been a part of – the Birds of Prey. Not ironically, she hadn’t really fit in. Out of the goodness of her heart (or perhaps out of fear of some wicked dark vengeance, Charlie thought more likely), Barbara Gordon, codename Oracle, had given her a credit card. She wasn’t entirely sure what the limit on it was, but considering that she was planning on crime-fighting and shopping full-time, Charlie made the decision to be frugal with her apartment.
“I hope all is well, ma’am,” the balding, shabbily-suited landlord said politely, nodding to her before turning to go.
“Oh yeah, it’s totally awesome! Like, for realsies!” She turned slightly to face the man who’d just rented her the place, but he was already long gone. “Ah well. Time to get a look at the new bat-apartment! Or… misfit-apartment. Mis-partment. Suddenly I feel the need for a name that better lends itself to kick-ass prefixes.”
Charlie hefted her big, dark purple backpack over her right shoulder, giving the left a much needed break as she stepped inside and kicked the door shut. She immediately began to bounce from room to room, a faint purple *poof!* marking her departure each time she teleported, getting to know her new abode. It was medium-sized, with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom, guest room, and storage closet. More than she needed, obviously, but she did say she’d be living frugally, not like some kinda hobo.
“Alllllright. Time to get the new costume together, I suppose… by tonight I need to introduce a whole new city to what dark vengeance is all about.”
“So… no more movies?”
“No more movies, kiddo. I’m sorry.”
“No more pizza?”
“No more—look, it’s not like I’m gonna be gone forever, alright? The JSA need me on Mars for a while… you can stay at my place while I’m gone. And you can still get movies and pizza while I’m not here.” Kara Zor-L, also known as Power Girl, frowned softly and reached down to ruffle her fingers through a particular mop of silky black hair.
“But why do yooou have to go?” Atlee protested, hugging tightly to her friend and tugging that white unitard in ways that stretched Power Girl’s infamous cleavage window beyond decency. “Bizarro is Superman’s problem, not yours! You belong in Manhattan with me! With the cotton candy!”
“Superman’s busy with Braniac, hon…” Kara sighed softly, dropping to one knee to properly look into the smaller girl’s eyes. “Look, it won’t be for that long. A couple of days to find him, beat him, clean up the mess. I’d take you along but I don’t want to risk you… well, not being able to survive in space. And admit it, Bizarro’s just a smidge above your paygrade.”
“I don’t get paid at all!” Atlee protested.
“Huh. I guess you’ve kinda got me there, don’t you? I’ll tell ya what, I’ll leave my debit card with you. Go out, have fun, protect the city. I’ll be back before you know it. Just try not to spend too… excitedly.”
“Fine…” Atlee folded her arms and sulked, sticking her bottom lip out slightly as she mumbled. “Go get pizza by myself….”
“You’re a tough kid. Show me your tough face!” Kara smiled slyly and Atlee tried to hold back a smirk of her own. She then made a fist and screwed up her face in a tough, “mean” expression.
“Grrrr!” she tried, before falling into a playful laugh. “Just don’t be too long, okay?”
“I won’t, promise.” She turned and gazed up into the sky, taking a deep breath. “I guess it’s up, up and away, and all that.” Power Girl pushed out one fist and rocketed into the sky at kryptonian speeds, quickly becoming a speck in the distance.
“Wait… wait, wait!” Atlee’s eyes suddenly widened, and she took a meaningless step forward. “Waaaaaaait!”
“…You forgot to show me how the toaster woooorks!”
Finally, a chance to have a real costume. Batman t-shirts, rubber kitchen gloves, and jean skirts… well, they worked as a replacement. But if she was gonna be “Misfit, plague of evildoers, protector of big apples, bringer of totally dark vengeance”, and make a real name for herself, then she’d have to look the part.
The costume had been a pain to get a hold of, but easier with a little cash. It was partly bought and partly made, with a little gift from Oracle thrown in.
She started suiting up by struggling into her lightweight leather bodysuit, midnight blue. One pantleg only reached her knee, mimicking the tights of her old costume, and that black, stylized “M” decorated her modest chest. A slim black utility belt stocked with batarangs and some various gasses separated the bottom and top sections.
Next came her black combat boots (some things are just a must-have) and matching gloves, complete with hardened plates on the knuckles for some really sweet knockout punches. Next, a long black bat-cape, complete with the gliding abilities that the real bat-folks used, and then her gift from Oracle – a pair of simple, dark, small goggles that could see in various frequencies, allowing her to see in the dark and maybe even pick up some chemical clues. She was on her own, now, so she’d have to be a real detective. She couldn’t rely on the Nerds of Prey to direct her, not anymore.
But she didn’t need them!
She teleported out of her sparsely-furnished apartment and out into the streets of Manhattan. It was night… and dark and stuff… the perfect time for seriously uncool things to happen that she could easily prevent. Like taking a bowling ball from a quadriplegic baby. Probably.
Ssssss! Empty alley!
It may not have been quite as easy as she was thinking… now that she considered it, New York had been under the watchful eye of Power Girl for the last couple of months. But she just stopped alien invasions and dinosaur attacks, right? Not low-grade robberies? Surely something that inconsequential wasn’t a job for the one and only Peegee?
Then again, if she were a criminal in Power Girl territory, she’d be pretty cautious too.
“Yo, Chuckles? You got the stuff, man?” It was faint; a whisper in a dark alley, but Misfit heard it. She pursed her lips curiously and tipped her goggles down off of her head, flicking on the infrared functions and the chem-trace. Yeah. The chem-trace. Wicked.
“I got it man, just be quiet. Kryptonian hearin’ an all that.”
“Don’t say the K-word, ya nincompoop! They keep an ear out for that, yer lucky she hasn’t already come and scooped ya up and fried ya with heat vision!”
“Yeesh, keep it down, bozo. Here, take it man, just pay me and get out.
“Hahah! I don’t think so!” Charlie suddenly declared, bouncing a few feet away from whatever kind of deal was in progress. Whatever it was, she knew it couldn’t be good. “I’ll give you one chance to hand over your… um… goods! And give me the scoop on your operation! The alternative is very dark, and very vengeful – I don’t recommend it!”
Her night-vision goggles didn’t show much of interest – shifty reddish forms, one fat, the other thin, one holding a package holding something bluish… colder than the surrounding temperature. Mysterious, but whatever. She’d totally figure it out.
“…Run for it!” One yelled, the one that had been called bozo. The fat one. Both men began to run as fast as possible, holding tightly onto the package (whatever it was). One bounce later and Misfit was ahead of them, a cocky smile on her face as she tossed forward a pair of batarangs, one bouncing off of either head and leaving its target sprawled in the alley.
“DARK MOTHERFLIPPIN’ VENGEANCE! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSH!” she exclaimed joyously, delivering a quick kick to the head of Chuckles, who seemed to be stirring.
“Now for the investigation. This will be… less fun.” Both men wore dirty, grubby overcoats, they were greasy and unwashed… your typical henchmen or bottom-feeder criminals. “Grossgrossgrossgross…” she squealed silently as she reached into their respective coats, withdrawing their wallets and the package, then wiping her hands off on… nothing nearby.
Misfit quickly teleported back to her apartment, squirming awkwardly and desperately trying to wriggle out of her outfit, trying to throw off every piece at once. The only thing on her mind was a shower. “Yuck! I know thugs have to be, like, dirty, but do they have to be so dirty?” She exclaimed, hopping up and down on one foot as she tried to struggle out of her leather suit. Whatever the package and wallets contained, it could wait until tomorrow… or at least until after she’d showered and gotten a soda or three.
“Can I get some ID, kid? I’m pretty sure you’re too young to get a pitcher of beer with this. How old are you?”
Atlee tilted down her sunglasses, glaring meaningfully at the discriminatory waiter. “I could tell you… but then I’d have to kill you,” she said seriously, before pushing her shades back up and staring coldly at the man.
“…So… that’s one root beer, and an extra large deluxe with extra cheese? This to go?”
“Kid… I… okay, whatever.” The man slapped his palm across his face and turned back to the kitchen, calling the order in.
When the pizza came, it suddenly became quite clear to her that Kara was a pretty big eater. She had assumed that, since they usually got two extra larges and finished them both, just one would work for her. She had been incorrect. It seemed that Power Girl ate more than her fair share.
The black-haired girl let out a long, thunderous burp after managing to finish about three quarters of her order, causing a minor tremor in the earth beneath her. She quickly squeaked and glanced around, hoping nobody would notice… nobody was looking at her as far as she could tell. Probably afraid to be caught looking at a superspy. She hoped that she wasn’t too obvious.
She paid her bill and left the pizza place shortly after, pulling her tan trenchcoat around herself tightly and keeping her sharp sunglasses down. She was an international woman of mystery, and nobody would ever know if she stayed dressed like this – of that much she was sure. So, in the safety of her disguise, she made her next stop the mall! Specifically, “Battlestar Galaga”, the largest arcade in the area.
It was somewhat dark inside, which made getting around with her sunglasses slightly challenging, though the bright flashing lights of the various consoles and arcade games made specific objects a bit easier to locate. She tipped her shades up momentarily to see what a certain stand was – it was Soul Calibur 4. She’d played 3 with Kara a few times and always kicked her butt at it, so it was worth giving it a shot.
“Insert Coin(s)” the machine stated proudly as computerized demo matches between alien monsters and busty greek women played across the screen. Atlee glanced around the arcade for anyone who might be looking – not too many people, just a boy with frizzy brown hair who seemed to be trying to figure out why she was wearing a trenchcoat and shades – such was life as Atlee, the superspy, but it was worth it.
She slid the debit card out of her inside pocket and knelt down, placing the tip at the coin dispenser and trying to push it inside. It didn’t fit. Atlee glanced from side to side again and tried to shove it in, bending the corner slightly but still failing. “Darnit!” she exclaimed quietly, whispering to herself. “Kara said this was money and could buy whatever I wanted… this stupid place doesn’t take real money!”
“You try actually getting coins, like it says?” came a voice from behind the stratan, confident but light, obviously that of a girl.
Atlee spun on her heel quickly, pursing her lips and tensing her brow to put on her best spy-face. The girl in front of her looked about her age, wearing jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt with the Green Lantern logo. She had long, straight, dark red hair, and her face was heavily dusted with freckles. She was adorable in a “petite teenager” kind of way, not quite as curvy as Atlee had become at her age.
“I… I don’t need coins. I have a debit card.”
The girl smirked, quirking an eyebrow and raising one hand to stifle a giggle. “Yeah, that’ll get you far in an arcade. Maybe if you go to the clerk he can hook you up.”
“But… this is supposed to be all the money I need! I got it from the, um… Scotland Yard. It’s a special debit card.” Atlee folded her arms under her breasts with a pout, made all the more intensely silly by her dark glasses.
“Mhm, I’m sure you did, but in this particular case S1:7 may have been more helpful, because at least they pay in gold once you get high enough level,” the girl giggled finally, unable to restrain her choked snorts of mirth. “Come on, why don’t we go to the machine and get you some tokens… goofball.”
“I don’t nee – I am not a goofball. I am a very important woman.” Atlee protested, but followed along behind the redhead anyway, glancing back at the machine with a huff.
“I’m Charlie, by the way,” the girl said smugly, glancing back for a moment to make sure the other teen was following her. “I just moved in, so I need to start making new friends, I guess. I had tons of friends back in Gotham, but my destiny took me here. Pretty cool, huh?”
Atlee’s sunglasses actually served their purpose this time, mildly disguising the blank look she had on her face. “I’m…” Uh oh. She hadn’t actually thought of a name for her secret identity. “…I’m Atlee,” she gave in, finally reaching the machine and twisting her lips when she saw the slot for the debit card. Some arcade.
“So, you come here often, Atlee?” the girl said playfully, smirking but obviously a bit curious about the name. It certainly wasn’t commonplace where she came from, but she was in a whole new city – maybe people gave their daughters nonsense names regularly in New York.
“Not a lot, actually… this is my second time here, it seems a lot darker than before.”
Charlie arched a brow and snickered, reaching forward to flick the girl’s sunglasses up onto her head.
“…Oh, no, I guess it’s about the same.”
“You gonna get some tokens or what? I wanna play Arctic Thunder but it’s so lame against the computer.”
“Racing game, snowmobiles, inappropriately vibrating seat?”
Atlee stared vacantly at the other girl.
“Jeez, didn’t your parents ever take you to Chuck E. Cheese’s or anything?”
“…I’ll show you when we get there. Come on, buy some tokens. I’m gonna whoop your butt so haaaaaard."
“Dear Strata,” the dark-haired girl whimpered as she tilted the handlebars, scrolling through characters.
Charlie glanced over idly from her own seat, already sitting on her own character, Candy Ice. This Atlee girl was like, weeeeird. Seriously, who tries to play Soul Calibur with a debit card? “What is it?”
If Atlee had been a cartoon character, her eyes would have been replaced by hearts. “They have a monkey!”
“Ponzo? He’s a yeti, not a monkey.”
Seemingly not hearing her, Atlee slammed onto the start button, her mouth in a wide smile.
“You picked him? Pfff… your funeral,” Charlie chuckled to herself and leaned forward, putting on her game face and setting both hands on the handlebars, pretending to twist them and going “vroom” while giving Atlee and intimidating glare.
“Me and Mr. Monkey can beat anyone… you’ll see. Your girl is no match for our monkey strength!”
“Shyeah, right! Candy Ice rulez supreme!”
Both girls immediately began to focus like their lives were on the line, swerving and hopping from side to side and only looking away from the screen to stink-eye one another. At first it looked like Atlee had no chance – she wasn’t fast or maneuverable enough, nor was she as skilled at the game as Charlie. She was lagging behind, managing to make most of the jumps but not getting many power-ups, and bumping against a good number of walls and other obstacles.
Charlie, driving the mechanic girl, narrowed her eyes and kept cruising forward, chewing her bottom lip and turning to glare at Atlee for a moment, ignoring the increasingly difficult-to-ignore vibration coming from her seat. When she glanced back, her eyes widened. “Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap!” she squealed, her snowmobile crashing violently into a tight turn and sending her player tumbling. “Noooooo craaaaap!”
“Bwaaahahaha!” Atlee roared as her fuzzy white ape zoomed past, sliding up the final ramp and slamming past the finish line. “Yes yes yes!” the girl shrieked, jumping off of the seat and pointing both index fingers at Charlie. “I win I win I win, and you lose, nyeaaah!” She stuck her tongue out evilly, continuing to dance and jeer.
“Pffff… I woulda won if you hadn’t distracted me… I was totally pwning you.”
“Yeah right! “Pwn” this!” she giggled maniacally, turning to shake her backside at the redheaded girl, her trenchcoat swaying from side to side.
“Okay, okay, you win… good game,” Charlie said soothingly, a slight smile curling her lips. This girl was weird as all hell, but she had to admit – Atlee was fun to have around.
Wonder what happened to Power Girl? Find out in Justice Society of America vol. 1 -- Stranger On Mars!
“What do you mean… it’s gone?” spoke an icy, feminine voice, curiously husky, as if it came from a throat long dry.
“This girl, she… she took it, ma’am, I’m sorry.”
“Girl? Power Girl? The container was lead! She couldn’t have found it, she never would have stopped her rounds to interrogate two cretins like you.”
“I… ma’am, it… it wasn’t Power Girl. I dunno who she was, she had a cape!” The man’s voice belonged to Alex Jefferson, known by his employers and associates by “Bozo” (except, ironically, for the Joker, who only called him “Puddinhead”).
“…Was it a red cape?”
“No ma’am… black. She was quiet, and she… I dunno how she did it, she was always right in front of us!” The portly fellow glanced awkwardly from side to side. The echo of his voice, the lack of any visible guards – it didn’t make him feel safe. Not with her here.
“Did she say anything? And Bozo, if I have to keep playing twenty questions with you? You’re going to end up having a lot less fun than you’re having right now.”
“She said…” the man paused. “She said ‘dark vengeance’. Das’all, ma’am, das’all I remember. Dark vengeance.”
“Dark vengeance… daaark vengeance….” A low, arctic laugh left the woman’s throat; short, but intense. “I like it. “Dark vengeance.” Haha.”
“Hehe, yeah, me an’ Chuckles kept sayin’ it afterwards, ‘dark vengeance’, hehe, it’s kinda catchy.”
“Did I say you should laugh? Do you have any reason to find anything funny?”
Bozo swallowed hard.
“You… have failed me.”
“Yeah but… but how did he do that with a… with a chocolate éclair? Wouldn’t that be totally sticky and gross?” Atlee gasped as she and Charlie walked out of the movie theatre, a look of persistent revulsion on her face.
“I know, right? I thought you, like, needed girls for that kind of thing.” Charlie giggled wickedly. “But I don’t think we should sneak into any more R-rated movies… you seem to take certain things a bit too seriously.”
“I just don’t see how eating – something like that – is supposed to be comedic! It was yucky!”
“Well you were the one who said we should go and see “American Éclair”, I would have been happy to watch “Perish Difficultly with Revenge” instead, and that was only rated PG-13.”
“Well, Kar – Kaaaaren, never used to let me watch R-rated movies, so I wanted to see what they were like. And they’re gross!”
Charlie snickered again. She had finally gotten the other girl to remove her sunglasses after she tripped when trying to find her seat, and the two were making fast friends, even if Atlee was… not exactly worldly.
“Well, you are seventeen, so you have every right to watch whatever you like. And who’s Kaaaren anyway? You keep mentioning her, she your mom or whatever?”
“No… she was my friend and my roommate, but now she’s off in – out of town, fighting stupid – um, lawyers, because of… business stuff.” Atlee chewed her cheek awkwardly and glanced over to the redhead, hoping her many slips were not noticed. Fortunately, she was already weird enough that they didn’t come across as particularly important.
“Oh, well… that’s cool. Ice cream every night or whatever?”
“No… just pizza by myself.” Atlee took a deep breath and looked at the ground ahead of her as the pair walked towards the subway. “I miss her… and her stupid business trips… stupid movies, and stupid pizza… stupid huge boobs… stupid jokes and stupid toast with butter….”
It was Charlie’s turn to stare blankly at the other girl, one thin red brow slowly rising at the mention of ‘stupid huge boobs’. “Um… look, do you… wanna come over or something--?”
“Can I?!” Atlee said excitedly, turning and lunging at the other teen, her arms folding around her waist. “Can we have a sleepover? Can I stay? Can we make toast? Do you have any romance DVD’s? Are your blankets really soft?”
“Um, jeez, uh… yes, sure, maybe, yeah, a couple, sorta…?” Charlie held her arms up awkwardly in one of those uncomfortable halfway-return-hugs.
“Yay!” the terran looked up at her new acquaintance from her vice-like grip, her big dark eyes glazed over with excitement.
“It’s a little way away though, hope you like public transportation.”
“It’s my favorite!” Atlee was desperate. She hadn’t even gone a full day without Kara and already she realized just how much she had hated being alone. She had been… angry… after she left Strata, left her mother and father deep below the earth so that she could come to the surface and help protect the world. She hadn’t even realized how much happier she was with Power Girl until the older woman was gone.
“By the way, those contacts are totally killer. Can’t believe you wear sunglasses and cover them up.” Charlie mused, in no way tuned in to Atlee’s need for companionship.
“Contacts?” the terran inquired.
“Um… your eyes are totally purple? It’s cool, I think they’re rad.”
“What do contacts have to do with purple eyes?”
“…I guess… nothing?” the redhead peeled herself out of Atlee’s embrace and awkwardly folded her arm around her shoulder, walking towards the nearest subway she knew of.
Atlee was weird in a consistent manner. People had told Charlie that she was a goofball (or a complete idiot, irresponsible child, or walking disaster) but she at least knew not to wear a trenchcoat in the middle of august.
“So, romance movies huh? I don’t have a ton, just what I brought with me in my CD case. I think I might have The Princess Bride.” She attempted as the pair of them trotted down the steps into the station below.
“The Princess Bride? I like the sound of that a lot… I assume it has princesses and brides?”
“Not only does it? They are totally the same person.”
“…I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”
Charlie sat in awe, casually taking a bite out of toast and leaning forward on the couch. It was a good thing Babs let her bounce over and borrow the TV – seemed eager just to get her out of there, some business with a green ring – because it would have been really awkward to remember that she didn’t even own a television set. She was in her pajamas now, white with black sleeves and pants, her green-nailed feet bare. Atlee had insisted that she make toast with butter, and two loaves of bread were already accounted for.
“This is true love. You think this happens every day?”
Atlee sniffled wetly, tears beginning to stream down her face as she leaned to the side, resting her head on Charlie’s shoulder and taking an extra-big bite of toast. She was out of her trenchcoat, finally, and had borrowed one of her new friend’s nightshirts (light red, with a panda on the front), which was… a bit ill-fitting, considering her figure in comparison to the redhead’s. But, despite some constriction around the breasts and hips, she was comfortable on the couch. “This is the best movie ever.”
“I know. I’m so glad we watched it.”
“Hah! ‘As you wish’. You see? The grandpa said it at the end, ‘cause it means ‘I love you’! That’s why he said it, right?”
“That’s probably what I’d go with.”
“Ooh, it’s based on a book!” Atlee squealed as the credits began to roll, showing images of the characters one by one. “Can we get the book? Is it good?”
“I’d actually suggest you don’t read the book. It isn’t really very good unless you get the abridged version, in which case you might as well just be watching the movie.”
“Well… can I come and watch it again sometime?” the raven-haired terran said excitedly, turning to face Charlie and nearly pouncing her.
“Hehe, as you wish,” she snickered evilly.
“Yay! Kara said I’d make new friends and I didn’t believe her, but we’re friends, right?”
Charlie arched a brow again… Atlee was kind of fun, but she couldn’t think of anyone she called a friend. Even Babs hated her most of the time. “Well… I mean, I guess, but we’ve only really known each other for like a day. I think we’d have to bond over a shopping spree before I could really – wait, who’s Kara?” the name rang a bell. Oracle’s computer had two Karas in its database. One was Kara Zor-El, Supergirl. The other was Kara Zor-L, who also went by the name of—
“Holy crap! Stinky! I forgot to feed him!” Atlee suddenly exclaimed, leaping up from the couch. “I have to get back home right away!” the look of despair on her face was already apparent; she had been hoping for a sleepover.
“Wait, um, where do you live?” Charlie spoke up, sitting up on the couch. “I may be able to call a… friend… who can go there and feed him, if it’s okay.”
“But the door is lo—“
“—That won’t be a big problem. My friend is very resourceful.”
“Why do you have to go to the bathroom to make a call…?”
“My… friend… is very private. And he doesn’t want anyone to ever hear his voice that doesn’t… um… know him already….” Charlie pulled the bathroom door shut behind her, leaving Atlee standing, confused, on the outside.
Misfit found herself outside the modest apartment, glancing from side to side to make sure nobody saw her ‘port in. It was night… not many people around, and she’d found that people usually saw what they wanted to see, which helped her a great deal. She stepped up to the front door, and saw the mailbox just before bouncing inside and filling Stinky’s food and water bowls, much to the delight of the usually smelly orange cat.
The mailbox read “Karen Starr”.
Karen Starr, as in Kara Zor-L, as in Power Girl.
Which made Atlee….
“Terra.” Charlie stated proudly, flinging the bathroom door open. “You’re Terra! The Terra! I should have known I’d run into the only other good-aligned meta in the city. Wanna fight and then team up?”
“I… nuh uh. No I’m not.” Atlee replied resolutely, folding her arms and turning her head to the side, as if not facing Charlie was a perfectly reasonable means of not being liable to answer any questions.
“You aaaaaare, you were Power Girl’s sidekick and the original Terra was patterned off of your DNA!” Charlie drew close, dancing excitedly around the other girl with an expression of mischievous wonder on her face.
“How would you even know that? Nobody knows that.”
“Well… let’s just say I have friends in smart places, and one of my friends knows… pretty much everything, and from time to time I sooooort of go through all of her files and search for all the juicy gossip. I remember clicking on your file once, Terra.3, because I thought your outfit was so crazy awesome. You can call me Misfit! I’m a superhero too, a really awesome one! I was Oracle’s right-hand girl for a long time and had a place of honor on the Birds of Prey!”
“…You look a little young for the Birds of Prey,” Atlee pursed her lips and finally looked back at the other girl, as if evaluating her. “And isn’t Oracle’s right hand girl Black Canary?”
Charlie chewed the inside of her cheek, a faint pink blush staining her heavily freckled cheeks. “Well, maybe I wasn’t officially with the team… usually… but I did share a bunkbed with Babs one time when the basement flooded her room! So you could say we were pretty tight!”
Atlee suddenly smiled. “I can top that. One time our power went out, and Kara had forgotten to buy extra blankets, so we had to share.”
A deep, genuine gasp burst from Charlie’s lips, her eyes widening. “You got to snuggle with Power Girl? The Power Girl?”
“All night,” Atlee said proudly.
“How was that?”
“Can we be best friends now?”
Some problems, some… addictions, you will make any sacrifice for. Even when her powers were fresh, when they were… pitifully weak, she had wanted victims, wanted her targets to grovel under her, beg for mercy, beg for a break… or beg for more. She wanted victims, and as her feeble powers began to grow stronger, she began to realize the depth of her secret fetish.
She wanted those victims to be able to fight back.
Metahumans were an obvious choice… the young ones, the ones who weren’t confident. The ones who would fight with whatever they had, but would always give in. The ones who didn’t realize they could win if they kept fighting.
Those were the ones she loved best, and as she had started to… crave them, she needed more power. Her abilities had reached their zenith, a pathetic plateau that barely even put her in the game of heroes versus villains. Just as she wanted her victims to be stronger, she needed greater strength herself. She wanted battles that she would win – the fact that her encounters were always a sure thing made her victories ever sweeter.
She had exercised her body, trained in martial arts – mostly the grappling ones, like Jiu Jutsu and Sambo. Perhaps, strengthening her body would strengthen her powers. It did not. She needed more.
She had sold her soul to the being known as Neron, for greater strength. She hadn’t been using it – her soul, that is – and the hell she would be sent to would be worth it all, in the end. That was if Neron himself didn’t simply congratulate her on her success and give her a bottle of ice-cold champagne, along with a few teenage girls.
If it wasn’t for that brat, that… that Black Alice… she would still be on top, undisturbed by the feelings of regret and guilt that were beginning to plague her. That bratty little goth girl had felt the power dwelling inside of her, and more importantly, that a significant portion of it was magical in nature. When she had drained her strength, the bargain had been shattered as Neron’s powers were drained away from her. She was reduced to the pathetic level of power – no, less than that – that she had been forced to suffer with before she made her deal. She was weak, feeble… and even though she could still turn a pigeon into a block of ice, she could barely walk ten yards without a cane.
It was pitiful, and she hated herself for her weakness. Hate… the only emotion she still had that let her hang on to the feeling of being without her soul. She hated herself, hated Black Alice, hated Neron, and hated Icicle for having the only item that she may be able to use to restore her power. Her soul was returned, but it was tainted… it couldn’t be traded back to Neron. It was blackened and frostbitten, charred from spending so much time in his realm.
So she was stuck with it, stuck here in her icy palace, threatening henchmen. Stuck trying to get the Heart of Ice, the one artifact that she could use, that she could… consume, that could restore her to full power. And once she had overthrown Icicle and retrieved the Heart, the world would tremble in her icy grip.
But first, she had to deal with a meddlesome brat in a black cape that had stolen the Heart of Ice away from her, so soon before it was to be hers.
“M-madame… Madame Frost…” came a soft voice, one of her less-cared-for minions, -- a thin, straw-haired man by the name of Gouch.
“What is it, you idiot? Speak up.” Her voice was like gravel raking of ice, dry and bitter with just the thinnest glimmer of deep-lying murder hidden beneath.
“The Signature Reader that we stole from the Iceberg Lounge… Cambo figured it out, managed to use it. The Heart is still in New York, Miss Frost.”
“…Good,” a thin, dark-lipped smile spread across Killer Frost’s face. “Good.”
“So, why Manhattan? You didn’t like Gotham?” Atlee mumbled around her straw. When Charlie had realized that she had vanilla ice cream in the freezer and a carton of milk that wasn’t rotten yet, it had become imperative that they make milkshakes.
“Well, I mean, it was okay… but I guess I just started to really feel that if I was going to make a real name for myself, I had to break away, y’know? I had done great things as Batgirl… don’t ask… but then when I was pretending to be a Bird of Prey it just seemed like I screwed everything up. Like I was a square peg, or a fifth wheel, or whatever.” Charlie took a long drink from her own milkshake-filled mug and shuddered from the cold. She glanced towards Atlee on the couch for just a moment, as if wondering whether or not to draw closer.
“Like a Misfit?” Atlee said, a playful grin spreading across her face, which earned her a futile swat from Charlie. The redhead huffed quietly and laid her head onto the other girl’s shoulder, taking another sip from her straw.
“I guess, yeah. I was proud of the name at first, really… but when I started to realize how true it was it got a little depressing. Oracle seemed to hate me as much as tolerate me, and I know her heart is great, but I just felt like I was constantly being… I dunno. Discouraged. Like, I should be bringing justice to Gotham, instead of playing backup for when Huntress inevitably gets captured. I needed my own life, and my own job… my own city.”
Atlee frowned sympathetically for just a moment, before folding her free arm around Charlie and pulling her close. “Empire of the Ant-Mongers” seemed to be coming to a close, not that either girl was paying much attention to the movie on Barbara Gordon’s borrowed television.
“Bacooooooooon,” Charlie intoned blissfully, cracking her neck as she flipped the mess of the stuff she was currently cooking up. She was still in her pajamas, her silky red hair an absolute mess of tangles and faraway wisps. “Baconbaconbacon… wheeeeeeee….”
“Whuuuh… whut is thaaat…” the incoming voice was sleepy and confused, assaulted and intoxicated by the scent of fresh breakfast. Atlee staggered into the living room, one end of her borrowed nightshirt hitched up and tucked awkwardly into her underwear.
“This… is bacon.” Charlie turned slightly and offered a bright smile. She was still a little sleepy herself, but after the absurd amount of toast that the girls had eaten last night, it had become imperative that she make an actual breakfast to go along with it. Two fried egg sandwiches were already sitting on the warmer, and Charlie had started to make herself a bit more at home in her brand new apartment.
“…” Charlie said soulfully, her head slowly turning to face Atlee, whose bedhead was even worse than hers. “You don’t know what bacon is?”
“I thought you read my file,” the stratan said with a touch of sarcasm. “I’m not exactly… from here. Kara never really bought it, we usually ate cereal for breakfast… or toast, when she was in a hurry.”
“Then let me tell you… you are about to be really happy you met me.” Charlie slipped a few strips of belly-meat onto Atlee’s plate and slid it over onto the table. She wasn’t much of a cook, but she was good enough for this.
“It can’t be that good…” Atlee grumbled, rubbing her eyes and taking her seat. “Does smell nice though.” She reached forward and took her fork, spearing one of the strips of sizzling, dripping bacon and stuffing it into her mouth.
Her eyes widened.
A single tear rolled down Atlee’s cheek.
A single tear of joy.
“Cambo said he found it? You think this is really the place? Looks like nobody even lives here. No car or nothin’.” Chuckles grumbled, standing outside a fairly new Manhattan apartment. He had been lucky – some severe frostbite had taken his nose, most of his ears, and a few fingers, leaving his face blackened and dead in several areas. It was better than what had happened to Bozo, but he was just happy that he was still alive after losing the Heart of Ice. Killer Frost always… paid her debts.
Gouch scratched the back of his neck and reached into his pocket, withdrawing a small map that had been drawn out with the Cobbletech Signature Reader. The texture of the map was grainy, the lines blurry and green, but he had followed it as closely as possible. Best he could tell, this had to be the place.
Chuckles sucked in a deep breath and reached into his pants, withdrawing a machine pistol and flipping the safety off. “If this skank is still in here, and she’s still got the Heart, then we’re gonna be in for a fight. Just don’t shoot me, alright? She’s gonna be… all over.” Gouch nodded resolutely and drew his own revolver (it was trusty, thing had never jammed on him, not once).
“Let’s rock, then,” Gouch said, narrowing his eyes. His oversized brown duster billowed out behind him as he kicked the door dramatically. His foot bounced harmlessly off the simple metal lock and he flew backwards, growling. “You got a credit card, Chuck?”
“Yeah, I think so—“ the other henchman began, but was interrupted by the door swinging open. Silhouetted in the doorway was a short-haired, teenaged girl wearing a long nightshirt, her deep violet eyes gleaming as she set her eyes on the weapons the two men were carrying.
“Ch—ah, Misfiiiit! I think we have company!”
“Ooh, really?” came a voice from inside the apartment. “Killer!”
“Crap, I know that voice!” Chuckles roared as his partner-in-mooking lifted himself back onto his feet. The scrawny henchman lifted his fully automatic handgun and aimed directly at Atlee – also known as the superheroine, Terra – and opened fire without discretion.
Imagine his shock when the dark-haired girl suddenly lifted her arms up to her shoulders, the pavement beneath him flipping upward faster than he could pull the trigger. The bullets sunk harmlessly into the crumbling concrete. Chuck’s eyes widened and he suddenly wheeled around, turning to run – he had no illusions of bravery or valor, and he was through working for Frost, if this was what he had to deal with. He’d move back to Gotham and try fighting heroes he might actually have a chance of shooting.
However, as he took his first step, he ran directly into Misfit’s fist.
“Score!” the redhead shouted as the mook went hurtling backwards onto the shredded sidewalk, before bouncing to the side of Gouch, who had aimed his gun at Terra.
“Whatcha gonna do with that?” Atlee said with a smirk, the floating chunks of concrete visually separating and forming into tiny spheres, just about the size of a bullet.
“Don’t… don’t make me… I don’t wanna kill no kids…!” Gouch shrieked, his voice wavering. One of the tiny nodes of rock hovered next to the barrel of his revolver, and Atlee casually flicked one of her fingers forward, lodging it into the gun.
The man frowned deeply and threw the gun down, holding his hands up. “What now? What do you do with me? Ya gonna kill me?” His voice was… desperate, to say the least. Working for Killer Frost thus far, he had faced off against villains, not heroes – failure was never an option.
“Err…” Atlee said, pausing and lowering her hands, glancing over to Misfit. The freckled girl was already dragging an unconscious Chuckles back into the apartment, and shrugged uncomfortably.
“I never really get this far. Usually tie ‘em up and leave them for the cops with some bruises and a thank-you note… unless I’m working for Babs, in which case I get tortured by Black Alice or used as a last resort. What do you do with them?”
“I don’t know! I’m a sidekick! And Peegee never really… um… well, dealt with henchmen. Or really many humans at all. So a lot of the time she just punched them and let everything sort itself out. I’ve never thought of this particular situation arising.”
Gouch arched a thick, fuzzy eyebrow, glancing back and forth between the two girls. “You do realize that as soon as we go missing, more will be coming for you. Ya took me out, fair and square, I can admit that… but at this point it’s in your best interest to hand over the Heart.”
Both teens snapped their heads to the side, facing the now-kneeling henchman. “The what?” Atlee chirped.
“The Heart of Ice. We know you have it, she knows you have it… just give it to me and everything will be fine, everything goes back to normal. You two never needed to get in the middle.” Gouch was desperate now. Maybe, just maybe, they would be naïve enough to go for it.
Atlee turned back to the other teen, arching a brow. “You have any idea what this goon’s talking about? Or is it some kind of gambit to stall us?”
“Well, I did get this, uh, thing, the other night…” Charlie replied, shuffling her feet awkwardly beneath her. “We should drag this goon inside. We gotta suit up and ask some questions.”
“My suit’s at home!” Atlee squeaked. Darnit, Peej told me to keep it under my clothes. Guess that’s what I get for not listening.
“Not a problem. Back in a flash – I’ll feed that smelly cat, too.”
“You’re the best.”
Terra and Misfit both folded their arms across their chests, fully suited up now and standing in front of the two thugs, both tied to chairs. They held the pose for an uncomfortably long time.
“Are they gonna ask us something, or…?” Chuckles began, wiggling his tongue down out of his mouth to tickle at the dried blood encrusted onto his lip.
“I think they’re just waiting for us to crack,” Gouch replied, arching a brow up at the two girls. “Seriously, what are you doing?”
“We’re, um… intimidating you,” Atlee tried.
“I think we should try punching them a little more,” Charlie whispered over to her new partner. “When the Birds of Prey intimidated people they always punched them.”
“I’m not big on punching though, I use rocks and stuff… and I don’t know if they can handle a punch from rocks.”
“Fine, I’ll do it.”
“Careful! You knocked the other one out when you hit him.”
“Yeah, I won’t hit him too hard,” Misfit took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes, leaning forward to glare at Gouch. “I’ma punch you. But, if you don’t want that, you can tell me who you’re working for and where they are. We aren’t gonna sit here like… sitting… ducks.”
Gouch’s face fell in an expression of resigned distaste. “Look, I’m a reasonable man, and honestly I don’t even—“
Misfit lashed one fist outward, bonking her knuckles into the side of Gouch’s skull.
“Ow! What the hell? I was about to tell you!”
Atlee swatted Misfit’s shoulder with a frown.
“What? I thought he was being evasive.”
The unkempt henchman growled idly in his seat, glaring up at the two girls. “I’ll tell you who I work for, and where she is. But please, you don’t want to do this… you don’t want to go up against her. You guys… girls… you’re tough, I’m sure. But you’re not in her league.”
Terra stepped forward, leaning in and giving the two mooks an unintentional view of her cleavage. “Who? Who are you working for? Why does she want this ‘heart of ice’?”
“…We work for Killer Frost.”
Atlee and Misfit didn’t exactly have the well-practiced technique of vigilantes like the Batman – not yet, anyway – but the two trussed-up figures, complete with sticky notes reading “supervillain henchmen, you should probably run prints or whatever”, got the idea across to the police. Chuckles and Gouch had their prints and backgrounds checked, and ended up in holding cells by the end of the day.
Now, however, things were serious. What had started off as a chance meeting and an evening of acting like kids with their parents out of town, had turned into a very critical situation. A possible clash with an immensely deadly villainess who was searching for something that Charlie just happened to have.
It was time for Atlee and Charlie to be Terra and Misfit. There was no Oracle to plan for them. No Power Girl to brawl against the bad guys. No Huntress to rush in at the last second. Nobody in the city that they knew of – just a girl who could teleport, and a girl who could fling rocks around.
“Do you think we’ll be able to do this, Atlee?” Charlie glanced over at the other girl from the rooftop they were both perched on, her slim goggles set down over her eyes, her dark cloak billowing behind her. She was afraid, of course she was. She knew what she was capable of – her greatest accomplishment was taking down Gizmo. That was something very, very different from defeating Killer Frost. The Killer Frost.
She focused her eyes back on Atlee, who offered a reassuring smile. At least she had help.
“I know we’ll be able to. This Frost lady may know that someone has her thingy, but… she doesn’t know who. You can teleport! I mean – that’s awesome! She won’t know what hit her, you can bounce both of us in—“
“Leeet me stop you right there.” Misfit said, hanging her head. “I can’t bounce anyone besides myself… or bad things happen.” Wasn’t that the truth. And that restriction had cost her everything. If she could teleport other people, she wouldn’t be where she was, wouldn’t be able to fight and possibly die against Killer Frost. She could be going to a normal school, with a normal life. She never would have met that wretch Black Alice. Would have never been such a disappointment to Oracle.
“…Oh.” Atlee grunted quietly. “But, you can! And I caaan… do something else.” She smiled softly, and Misfit smiled back.
“So, what’s our first move?”
“Well, first we have to find her… any ideas?”
Charlie scratched her chin slightly, pursing her lips and arching her brow. “Well, I mean, she’s Killer Frost. So she’d be somewhere cold, you’d think.”
Atlee nodded. “Like a… giant refrigerator.”
“Or the penguin exhibit at the zoo!”
Atlee’s eyes widened. “That’s an awesome idea! We should check out the zoo! I have always wanted to see the penguins anyway!”
“Well, she wasn’t at the zoo,” Misfit sighed, still in full costume. Atlee nibbled casually at the edge of her third cotton candy, the dissolve-y treat doing wonders to fill the void of having not found Killer Frost. She gave Charlie her best “equally-disappointed face”, despite the fact that the stick-mounted hive of sugar was making fireworks of joy erupt in her stomach.
“Nooo… but dear Strata, the penguins were so cute! We should get one!”
“Like… as a pet?” Charlie glanced back at her friend-and-partner, a brow cocked.
Atlee wilted under the discerning gaze, scratching the back of her neck with her free hand and stuffing her tongue idly into the side of her cotton candy. “Well, I mean, it’s a thought.”
“I think my apartment may have some kind of rules about exotic pets…” Misfit said awkwardly, lowering her eyes. “…But if they don’t we totally should!” She squealed, igniting a shriek of joy from Atlee.
“Maybe we can get a superhero discount!”
“Yeah! Well… provided we actually do some superhero-ing. So far we have yet to catch Killer Frost. Or. Y’know. Even find her.”
“Well, we will find her! We’ll find her, we’ll beat her because we’re awesome, and then we’ll go get one of those penguins!” Atlee puffed her chest out with a proud gleam in her eyes.
“Were you talking about those penguins?” A voice suddenly rumbled from behind the pair – far too deep and massive to belong to any normal human. It was monstrous in nature, causing the pair of teenage heroes to turn very hesitantly.
Standing before them was an enormous, hulking beast of a man, his flesh a deep, rubbery gray, and his eyes perched on a pair of thick stalks that adorned either end of his awkwardly-shaped head. Blood rimmed his mouth, and when he spoke again, a single little webbed foot could be seen lodged between two rows of huge, bladelike teeth. “My bad.”
Atlee’s mouth opened in horror, and her stick of cotton candy fell to the gum-stained pavement beneath her.
“…What?” The monstrous creature grunted.
Atlee took a hesitant step backwards, pointing one finger at the beast in horror.
“Wha—oh, right. Yeah. I’m King Shark. I’m… well, I’m a shark. That’s probably of some concern to you.”
Charlie swallowed the hard lump in her throat. This beast – this King Shark – was at least three feet taller than her, and probably weighed a good five times as much, which, as he had mentioned, was indeed of great concern to her and Atlee. “Alright, b-buster,” Misfit began, her voice squeaking a little bit more than usual. “What are you… what are you up to? And why did you eat those penguins?”
“The penguiiiins,” Atlee whimpered.
“Oh, I just went off my diet a few days ago, so I wanted somethin’ really fatty – er, I mean, well, the boss lady said to look for you, so I started checkin’ cold places.” He lifted one huge, clawed hand, starting to tick off fingers. “First I checked a couple of giant refrigerators, figured that was a safe bet, but you weren’t there… so I tried Dairy Queen, but they got kind of upset that I was there and there were honestly too many girls to sort through… then I started gettin’ kinda hungry and figured, hey, maybe the zoo. And whaddya know, here you are, so I guess I’m not as dumb as everyone says.”
“But why did you have to eat all the penguins?!” the stratan cried out.
“I was hungry, okay?! Jeez, I am trying to maintain my body image, and the first time I really binge I get flak for it? I’m gonna enjoy ripping your head off and chewing on your little tiny bones.” King Shark locked his animalistic jaws together awkwardly, giving him a look of strangely disappointed resolution. “But, big KF said I should give you a chance to surrender yourselves and the Heart Thingy, if you were teenagers, which I can see that you are. So let’s hear it – gimme the Icy Rock Thing and come with me, and I won’t tear you in half. Right now, anyway.”
“Well…” Charlie glanced up at King Shark, then down to her feet. “That’s a really good offer… but….”
“I always hate when they say ‘but’,” King Shark grumbled.
“But… I think I’d get a lot further with a little bit of—“ Misfit suddenly vanished in a puff of pale violet smoke. Atlee yelped and took a step back, and King Shark just let out a deep sigh.
“—Dark Vengeance!!!” Misfit roared as she bounced behind the hulking monster, landing a powerful left cross directly against the back of the beast’s neck. King Shark grunted idly, but remained unmoved. “Oh… that usually works a lot better.”
“Mhm, I bet it does,” King Shark said casually, pivoting at his hips and delivering a devastating backhand to Misfit that sent her violently skidding backwards across the sidewalk. “But I’ve taken hits from like, Superboy and Aquaman and whatever, so your little bitty hands just really sorta sting. Sorry.”
Misfit barely managed to teleport away (healing most of her injuries just before her body realized how bad they were) just before King Shark brought his foot down on where she had previously been. She reappeared behind Atlee, blood on her lips, coughs shuddering through her body. Terra narrowed her eyes and struck a powerful pose, as if guarding Charlie from this new threat.
“Oh, come on,” The Shark God growled. “Let’s not make this weird. Just come with me, I’ll put you in a nice garbage bag or something, and I’ll take you back for questioning. I don’t have to crush you both if you don’t want me to.”
“You haven’t proven yourself against me yet, fish-boy,” Atlee narrowed her eyes, a strange violet gleam beginning to illuminate them as she slowly lifted her hands, chunks of rock and earth blasting themselves up from the pavement.
King Shark tilted his head to the side slightly, pouting distinctly. “Look… I’m not sure how, but I get that you’re confused. But seriously, I’m a shark. Not a fish. A shark. Call me shark-guy, or shark-man, or shark-boy if that’s really necessary but let’s just get the facts straight—“ He was cut off by a sudden volley of powerfully-oncoming chunks of ground, heavy mounds of the sidewalk smashing against his smooth, pale gray chest like bullets and causing him to let loose a rough growl of genuine discomfort.
“How’s that, shark-boy!” Terra shouted over the sound of her repeated rocky blasts, driving the monstrous mercenary farther backwards with each hit. “Want us to come with you now?”
“NO!” he roared, swatting away the next incoming missile with one huge arm. “But I probably should anyway! So just… quit it!”
Misfit struggled to her feet, swirls of dusty purple energy spiraling around her as she seemed to blink in place, healing herself as much as possible before blasting herself back behind King Shark. This time, she tried to keep up – she bounced back and forth, up and down, narrowly avoiding Terra’s onslaught of earthy chunks while raining as many blows on their adversary as possible.
“You’re a mosquito! Enough!” the shark-for-hire boomed out, sweeping his arm out in a wide sweep while the other continued to deflect the incoming torrent of rock. His hand made contact, snapping against Misfit’s skull and knocking her out cold.
He kicked the prone teen roughly before turning back to Terra, his beady crimson eyes gleaming as he took firm hold of a particularly large chunk of rock. “You too!”
Even Atlee’s mastery of the ground beneath her feet was not enough to hold off the glob of rock that King Shark threw back at her. Her arms fell limp as it collided, her contact with the earth seeming to flicker and fade away along with her consciousness.
“Gah. That was harder than it needed to be,” Nanaue, the King of Sharks, mumbled quietly as he scooped up both girls and slung them over either broad shoulder. The onlooking zoogoers stood fairly still and silent as he strode past them, back into the streets of Manhattan and back towards his employer, Killer Frost.
“So, um, can I eat them now?” King Shark asked sheepishly, folding his arms behind his back.
“...No,” came the growled reply. Nanaue let out a deep, disappointed huff and crossed his arms with a bit of a pout.
“And why not? They’ve been here for two days and you don’t have the lung.”
“Heart,” King Shark admitted.
Killer Frost slowly turned her head to face the hulking monster of a man, causing her hired arm to take a respectful step back. “I haven’t even begun to show them pain yet… and I have quite a bit of enjoyment to wring from them.” She slowly smiled, her dark lips barely curling up in a sinister grin that spoke volumes about the woman and her… tastes.
“Well. How about when all of that’s done, then I eat them.”
Killer Frost chuckled quietly and turned away, opening the door that the girls were behind. “We’ll see.”
“S-s-s-s-s—so... coold..d….” Charlie whispered. She had been stripped down when she woke up, along with Terra – for some reason, some sort of cruel joke, Killer Frost had left her with her goggles and mask, along with the simple white sports bra and panties that she wore beneath her suit. It was as if she cared not for the pain she could inflict by learning her secret identity – it didn’t matter. Charlie was a super-powered teen, and Killer Frost had no intention of letting her escape this dungeon of ice. Letting Charlie – Misfit – cling to the hope of returning to her life, the cruelty of giving her that, was worth not taking every last scrap.
“C-c-c-c-can you… b-b-b-b-ounce…?” Atlee whispered. She had not been so lucky when it came to clothes. Under her super-suit she had kept only her pair of black ladybug panties, and even now she was sitting on the ice-slicked steel floor, hugging her arms around her breasts in a feeble attempt to retain her modesty, and, more importantly, keep the cold away from such a… sensitive place.
“…N-n-n-n-ope…” Charlie whimpered, closing her eyes and trying to focus, trying to… to use her powers, any power, even to teleport a foot away. “T-t-too cold, c-can’t… concentrate….” The redhead was showing that she was physically taking the toll of the cold – her skin was paler than usual, a bluish tinge overtaking her lips and fingertips. Atlee at least had the fact that she was a terran to fall back on, and her body was naturally resilient to temperatures in ways that a normal metahuman like Misfit had no hope to emulate.
Atlee drew a little closer, crawling forward with one hand and her knees. She leaned her head against Charlie’s freckled shoulder, shivering against the other teen and finally wrapping her arms around her. “Don’t… d-don’t… ddd-don’t leave me, Ch-Charlie… I need you…” the stratan whispered, holding her breath as Misfit’s eyes began to roll back slightly. She was barely holding on to life, unable to use her powers or even struggle away from this chamber.
When King Shark had taken the two back to Crystal’s lair, she’d had him put them in a special chamber, kept cold by cryogenics technology that had been perfected, and subsequently borrowed, from Dr. Victor Fries. After all, despite her powers having waned, she had to keep up the illusion of being an unstoppable creature of the cold – Fries’s tech had made it all too possible for Frost to emulate exactly that, keeping the two teens unable to escape, and more importantly, in pain.
Now, she strolled casually into the room in all of her glory – she had eschewed the cane she’d been using earlier, even if it meant that she would get exhausted after this brief exhaustion.
“I can make all of this end, you know…” she purred as she walked inside, her eyes lingering on the frozen, contorted figures of the two girls with a sadistic smile. “And I think you know exactly how to make that happen.”
Atlee turned her face up to the ivory-skinned woman, her modesty hidden by Charlie’s body as she hugged the human girl close to her. “Please… stop this. I… I can’t… I can’t….” She couldn’t access the earth beneath the steel of this chamber, couldn’t feel it the way she was supposed to. But she couldn’t say that… could she?
“Can’t what, beautiful little thing?” Frost’s sinister smile widened, and she crouched carefully beside Atlee. Despite the fact that she was conscious and functional, she didn’t consider the stratan a threat – her muscles were contracted visibly, her skin covered in pale goosebumps. She caressed a few chalk-white fingers along the girl’s shoulder, her touch both sensual, teasing, and cruel – agonizing in the cold of this chamber.
“I can’t… I c-can’t watch her freeze… y-you’re killing her!” Atlee shut her eyes, trying to ignore the older woman’s touch and squeezing her arms around her friend, clinging against her and shivering, hopeless to warm her up in the deathly chill of their room. “Please, I’ll do whatever you want… just get her somewhere warm, please don’t hurt her. She d-doesn’t deserve this!” Atlee’s teeth rattled between words, every limb tightened and shivering against the cold.
“No… she doesn’t. But you can end her pain, little alien. Tell me… where to find the Heart of Ice.” That sinister, predatory grin persisted as the woman drew closer, her free hand cupping Misfit’s chin and tilting it up, the redhead having lost consciousness some time ago. “And this beautiful little thing can have a nice robe and a cup of hot cocoa, just the way you want. Hell – you can go too, if you want. Though – you could always stay in the cold, here, and let me keep you warm….” Killer Frost nuzzled Charlie’s cold cheek suggestively, her dark, icy eyes never leaving Atlee’s purple ones for an instant.
“…In her apartment… I saw a little lead box in one of the cupboards. That’s got to be it.” Terra thought her vertebrae would shake loose, as hard as she was shivering. Frost’s icy fingers on her skin only brought spikes of burning sensation amidst the sub-zero chill of the steel chamber. “Please, just let us out of here.”
Killer Frost’s eyes flashed with malicious glee. “Wonderful. Nanaue?”
A disgruntled cough of acknowledgment came from outside the chamber, that of King Shark.
“Bring them to the prisoner’s suite… keep a close watch on them.”
“Are you sure?” King Shark grunted. “One can teleport I think.”
“They’ll be fine. By the time they’ve recovered, I’ll have the Heart of Ice.” She leaned in, placing a soft, crisp kiss on Atlee’s lips, plumes of steam sizzling up from between their mouths for just a moment before Crystal pulled away. “And then they’ll be no threat. Hmhmhmhm… heheheheheheheh.”
Charlie stared forward at the fire, the flames dancing in front of her eyes, mocking her with their heat. The surface of her pale, freckled skin had begun to tingle faintly from the ambient warmth, from the desperate throes of her body to suck in as much heat as it could manage, to resist the imminent full-body shutdown that she was surprised she hadn't succumbed to already.
Her body burned from the cold, which was something she had never really understood. She shivered and yet her fingertips felt like they would burn off. Her mind, however, was absent from the problems with her slowly-thawing body – her mind was dwelling on what Atlee had done to get her here. Killer Frost – the Killer Frost – was going to her apartment to get the object she'd been hiding. And if she wanted it this bad, then Charlie – no, Misfit – would not be able to tolerate her having it.
The stratan was nearby. Even if she couldn't move her head enough to see her, she could feel her, sitting still, nearly as cold as Charlie herself was. If only... if only she could bounce, she might be able to stop Frost in time, if that damn Shark wasn't there.
Then again... all she had to do was give in to the true nature of her power. The destructive ability that she had avoided since she first realized it. The power that Black Alice – her sister, or whatever the hell she was – had learned of quite violently when she briefly stole Misfit's abilities. If she grabbed Frost, or King Shark, and bounced with them....
She shook her head gently, the first time she'd moved since being brought from Crystal's frozen dungeon to the warmer rooms upstairs. She wouldn't do that, she couldn't let that happen again. Wouldn't cross that line. Wouldn't sacrifice all the work she'd put into being a hero.
“M-Misfit...? Are you awake?” Atlee's voice. Charlie allowed herself a small smile and wiggled awkwardly, her muscles still numb from the cold soaked into them.
Charlie let out a weak grunt, all she could manage at the moment. She heard the other girl stir, rising up from her own position near the fireplace and wrapping her arms around the red-haired teen – she wasn't quite as indecently dressed as she had been in the dungeon, seeming to be wrapped in some sort of soft robe. As the consciousness of her nerves increased, Charlie began to realize she was wearing one as well.
“At... llll... leee....”
“Shh, Charlie... don't talk... I need you to warm up, I need you.” She lowered her voice a few decibels, rubbing herself as vigorously as she could against the prone metahuman. “King Shark is outside, I can't beat him on my own. I need you to get us out of here... this high off of the ground, my connection to the earth isn't strong enough to summon something large enough to fly on. I need you to warm up.”
“Come on, come on... every second we stay here, she's getting closer to whatever that thing is you were hiding... I need you to get up...” the stratan rubbed her hands vigorously all over Charlie's thin body, rubbing the cloth of her robe into her skin, trying to heat her up. “If you can teleport, that will heal you, right? Isn't that what you said? You just have to do it once, just enough to heal... come on, Misfit... please.” Atlee's voice was desperate. That half-frenzied panic could be heard even in Charlie's frozen ears.
She had to get up.
“Stpp tch'n' mmm...” she groaned softly, eyes flickering open faintly.
“What? Misfit, what is it? Charlie?!”
Charlie opened her eyes fully, the sparkling blue orbs hazy from exhaustion and cold. “Stop... touchin' me... I can't take you along... if I bounce....”
Atlee hesitated for just a moment before nodding, and slowly detaching herself from the other girl – her only friend on earth, with Kara off with the Justice Society. She sat up on her knees and watched Charlie shiver and strain, watched her pale, blue-tinged body shake with the effort of trying to teleport when every muscle was cramping from the cold soaked into her bones.
“Charlie...” she whispered softly, just as a burst of dusty violet energy obscured the girl from her vision. Atlee held her breath for the long moments it took before that burst appeared again, quickly dispersing to reveal an under-wear clad, smirking Misfit.
“Let's do this. Who else is inside the building?”
“Besides King Shark, a few mooks – nothing I can't handle with pebbles and gems. But I can't handle him... he's too big, too strong. I need you to distract him while I get to the bottom levels. Then we go after Frost.” Atlee's face brightened, and she brought herself to her feet. “You have any spare costumes?”
“Just my old one, at home... you may be stuck with ladybug panties, unless you have a new suit at home?”
“I think I have two spare outfits, if you would be so good as to grab me one on your way back?”
“Gladly. Then we'll bust this popsicle stand and kick some Frosty butt! Then the world will know who the world's finest really are!”
Atlee grinned with mischievous excitement as Charlie bounced away in a puff of smoke.
Atlee skittered out through the unlocked door, dashing into the hallway and past Nanaue before the shark-man could properly react.
“Hey! Hey, um... stupid! Get back here!” he roared, his massive legs already starting to propel him forward until he felt a swift strike to the back of one of his eye-stalks. “Gah! Stupid little... dumb things! Aargh!”
Misfit nimbly dodged King Shark's incoming backhand, and grinned wickedly. “Missed me, missed me, now ya gotta kiss me! Not that you've got a chance in hell, fish-breath!”
“One of these days, someone is gonna seriously regret using the word “fish” to describe me in any way... let's start with you.” King Shark narrowed his beady scarlet eyes and charged forward, showing remarkable speed and skill for a creature his size – he was clearly in a different league than Misfit, she had no problem admitting that. But she wasn't trying to beat him this time. Just distract him, just long enough for Atlee to get to the ground level and give the signal.
“Get back here you little crunchy delicious thing!” Nanaue roared as Misfit bounced from point to point, a pre-set strategy that she had developed back when she was working with the Birds of Prey. She had hated the training at the time, but now that she was doing the whole solo gig, she was really glad she had.
“I think not, big boy--” a burst of violet energy and Misfit dodged an incoming gray meathook, bouncing behind Nanaue and lashing out with a vicious punch that drilled into the shark's other eyestalk, making a distinct dent in the odd appendage and causing it to bend inward awkwardly. “--I was thinking, instead, you could use a double dose of DARK F***ING VENGEANCE!”
“Owwww... owowow...” King Shark grumbled, clapping one hand across his smashed eye and turning to face his teleporting assailant, just in time for a thick, massive boulder to rocket upwards through the floor, driving him upwards into the ceiling and through who knew how many more floors. Through the hole the boulder had made, a second, small rock came hovering upwards, lifting up a smirking Atlee.
“That was some language, Charlie,” she scolded playfully.
“I needed some added affect. Ready to go tag that Frost bitch?”
The stratan narrowed her deep purple eyes fiercely. “Absolutely.”
“So sorry to hear that...” came a husky, rasping voice from beneath the two teens. There was a sound of grating, growing ice, and the floor that the two girls stood on became quickly encased in a solid sheet of thorny frost. “Because I think you'll probably find me uncooperative.”
Terra and Misfit's eyes widened in unison as the white-skinned woman lifted herself up before them on a tower of ice, that sadistic grin on her face just the way they'd left it. She stood tall now, strong, and the absolute cold of her breath puffed out in clouds even amidst her own chilled aura. She had found the Heart of Ice. She was at full power again.
“You,” Charlie mouthed silently.
“Me,” Killer Frost whispered, her voice conveying dozens of aspects all at once. It spoke of a woman who had given everything away, only to not want it back. A woman whose very soul was inked with the dark, crawling tattoos of mental sickness and perversion. A woman who had sacrificed her humanity, willingly, to embrace the unending, unbearable cold that now emanated from the very air around her.
Though, the girls weren't going to stand for that, wouldn't be cowed in the face of ice and fear and dread and hopelessness. They were Terra and Misfit, Atlee and Charlie. They were the World's Finest, and there was no way they'd lose today, if they could help it.
“I think you'll find you aren't so tough without your shark!” Atlee shouted, narrowing her eyes into gleaming violet semicircles of rage. Though it wasn't obvious from her playful demeanor or her naïve attitude, and her power didn't truly show itself when she was in the presence of someone like Power Girl, Atlee was a fierce opponent. She had been raised as a hero in Strata, a warrior, a special girl with special abilities. It was in the name of her duty, that of protecting the earth, that she had found herself on the surface (and in Kara's care) in the first place.
And it was thus that, in the face of Killer Frost's psychotic, confident sneer, Atlee brought her arms out wide, every muscle, every fiber of her mind and body straining to touch the earth below her, to bend it to her desires. Her mind wandered, just briefly, to Charlie – Misfit had only one real power, besides her regeneration, and that was her teleporting, or “bounces”. They could take her anywhere in the world, and as a weapon, Misfit's power was almost unstoppable... and also one hundred percent lethal. It was up to Terra to stop Killer Frost, a legendary supervillainess. She just hoped she'd be enough.
Her eyes closed for a moment, a smoky purple glow seeping out from beneath their closed lids as boulder after boulder rocketed through the walls, floors, and ceilings of whatever place it was that Killer Frost called her home. The multi-leveled complex began to crumble under the effort of Atlee's power as the ground itself assaulted the woman who had made the two teens' lives hell, even if for a relatively short amount of time.
Misfit's eyes widened for just a moment before she began to bounce, launching herself back and forth to avoid the incoming tide of cannonball-like rock and earth. Even King Shark, having just risen back to his feet from his new position on a lower floor, turned tail (though perhaps not literally) and began to run. Apparently his loyalty had its limits.
The only person who wasn't afraid was Crystal Frost.
Every chunk of earthy debris, every soldier in Terra's geographic army, stopped in its trail no more than a few feet from the villainess, caught in a thick wall of fluid ice. Her cold mocked nature's progression – each clump of dirt was compressed into pebbles, each heavy rock was frozen until it burst. Not even the steel girders holding the building together could withstand Killer Frost's new power. That what she had gained from the Heart of Ice seemed to have left her more powerful than ever before, even under Neron's contract.
That sinister smile just widened, now, as the icy-skinned woman posed atop her lofty plateau of what appeared to be solidly frozen air. “I'm sorry, girls – really, honestly, it's been fun. But who are you? A second-rate Batgirl? Some little punk who throws rocks?”
Misfit inhaled sharply, teleporting behind Atlee and placing both gloved hands on the other girl's shoulders, pulling her back slightly.
“I... I'm Killer Frost. Before the height of my power I could give Firestorm a fight for his life. Now... now that Icicle has weaponized the Heart of Ice? And now that I have absorbed its power into my own body?” Killer Frost let out a rich, grating peal of laughter. “I don't even need Neron's power – I'm stronger than ever before, with the black, icy, ragged tatters of my soul intact. It's poetic, in a way... after that brat Alice restored my soul, I feel more evil lurking inside me than ever. Doing cruel things to you becomes so much more exciting – so much more heinous – when I can come to care about what happens to you first.”
“Atlee... if I die, and you make it?” Misfit whispered quietly, squeezing her arms tighter around the other girl. She couldn't bounce, not and take Atlee with her. Whatever happened here happened to both of them – she was effectively helpless. “I want you to go to my apartment and take that miniskirt you liked so much, the red one with the dark green? I think it was a little too big for me anyway.”
“Don't say that! We're both going to make it, I can--” Terra's voice was cut off by the continuing chilled rattle of Crystal's voice.
“Oh, my my. See, this is what I meant – truly touching, you two. But you can't do anything. This earth, these rocks you called your weapons – they belong to me now.” Frost's peal of icy laughter grew now, grew into a roar of murderous lunacy as she flicked her fingers apart, Atlee's projectiles now blasting outward in an unavoidable fan of earthy shrapnel that was nearing absolute zero, drained of any warmth they had ever remembered.
Atlee turned slightly, not facing Frost. She couldn't do anything now – even her connection with the nearby rock and earth had been severed, as if her old allies were now more ice than rock, perverted by Killer Frost's powers. Alien to her. She put her face in Charlie's shoulder and squeezed her eyes shut, taking a deep breath and preparing for the end. That tide of sharp, hellishly cold rock would overtake them, and there was nothing either of them could do to prevent it.
Even if Misfit broke her one rule, even if she tried to use her powers to teleport Crystal away, to destroy her completely – she would be flash frozen before she got the chance.
But the incoming tide of death never came.
“Sorry, Frost. But the only person who's going to kill my sister... is me.”
A moment of silence that felt like an eternity passed, amidst the ambient cold and the sound of pebbles and sand dropping harmlessly to the floor. No more words, from anyone, no more actions, no more sounds. In those few brief seconds of time, everything was still, and the two huddled teens who thought to play hero got a significant span of time to consider their own mortality.
Misfit was the first to open her eyes when she realized that, for the moment, the girls may yet live. Things were not so different than they had been before she tried to tune it out – Killer Frost sat atop her hellish pedestal, tiny crystals of pure cold orbiting her psychotic visage like loyal pets. The building around them was all by destroyed, and Nanaue was long gone, as far as she could tell.
The big difference was that, standing before the ice villain, in ripped fishnets, a black leather tailcoat, and top hat – was Lori Zechlin. Her “sister”.
“Stay out of this, brat!” Frost hissed. “These girls belong to me, you have no part in this! I'll destroy you!”
“Wrong on two accounts, bitch,” Alice spat back, her form starting to quiver, her eyes glowing a deep gold. She was holding onto more power now – she'd transform again, and soon. “One: This is a family affair, and these girls are my property because I'm the one with the power to take them. Two: I'd just love to see you die trying. Next time I won't just let you retreat after I cripple you.”
Atlee was watching now, as well, observing the scene that was unfolding before her. While she didn't know everything about Black Alice, like Charlie did – the fact that she had the potential for nearly all of the universe's power, kept in the troubled mind of a traumatized teenage girl – she could see Killer Frost's organic reaction to the goth girl's words.
Pure, unadulterated fear shone through Frost's dark eyes, a brief flicker of the memories of what had happened to her at Alice's hands. Black Alice had done more to her than the most cruel vigilante could have dreamed of – she had given Frost her soul back, after it had rotted for who could tell how long in Neron's realm. Ripped the power from her body, shattered her dark contract, and given her the gift of a broken, tarnished soul. Even through Crystal's bravado, it was obvious that the reunion had been the most unbearable thing that had ever happened to her.
Killer Frost trembled with impotent rage as mysterious, eldritch energies slowly encircled Alice, replacing a twisted version of Zatanna's costume with an even more gloomy and bizarre version of Wonder Woman's.
“You'd deserve anything I did to you, Frost,” Alice whispered, tilting her head down slightly to gaze up at the woman through her brows, giving her a stern, deadly look. “And with Wonder Woman's powers, I can't promise I won't rip you in half with one punch. They're very volatile, you know... and...” The girl looked down for a moment, putting a hand to her temples for just a moment as if she was experiencing some kind of hangover-pang. “And Diana has a very violent heart.”
“You... would let me go, now? Without a fight?” Relief, surprise, and a determined attempt to appear nonchalant all flickered simultaneously over the villainess's face. “Why?”
“Because my fight isn't with you,” Black Alice growled, casually turning her back to Frost and glancing at Terra and Misfit, still huddled in the ambient cold of the ruined building, mortified observers of this conflict. “It's with her.”
Charlie's eyes widened. “...Me?”
“You.” Lori's – Black Alice's – eyes narrowed at the redhead, a deep rage burning underneath them. With a rush of arctic air, Killer Frost had left the crumbling structure, abandoning a fight she knew she had no chance of winning. Taking Black Alice head-on was about as smart as putting a wasp in your own eye, and she had the experience to know it.
So now it was three superpowered teenaged girls, alone in a building that would soon collapse. A wrathful Black Alice, a dumbstruck Misfit, and a thoroughly confused Terra.
“Why? What did I do?”
Alice sneered, and her costume changed yet again, discarding the greek symbols and gold armor for a sleek, streamlined black costume, that of Nightshade. A casual wave of one hand opened a massive, swirling gate of eddying shadow, a black, sucking entrance to who-knew-where. “Go in.”
“Misfit... who... who is she, again?” Atlee crooned as she looked from Alice to the portal, then back to her friend. She was lost in all of this, understanding none of the significance of Lori's presence. She didn't know that she and Misfit had... history.
“She's... my sister,” Charlie whispered, carefully stepping out around the other girl and towards the portal. There was no use resisting – Black Alice could find her anywhere on earth, steal her power to teleport and then use it against her. Compliance was, truly, the only option.
“Half-sister, skank,” the goth girl growled, turning to follow Charlie as she stepped into the portal. She paused momentarily, glancing back at Atlee. “See you around.”
The breath was nearly sucked from Charlie's lungs as she tumbled out of the churning black gateway of shadow. Odd, considering her primary powerset, but forms of super-travel not caused by her tended to make her a little... squeamish.
The two teens were back in Misfit's apartment, now – pale green wallpaper half-applied, empty ice cream cartons on the table, socks strewn about the floor. It was obvious enough. Charlie slowly turned once she stepped fully inside, holding one hand to her stomach as she watched Lori step through the portal, the swirling darkness closing up behind her. A few seconds later, that sleek black outfit faded away as well, leaving Black Alice in her usual outfit of a black half-shirt, and baggy black cargo pants.
“Are you... what are you going to do to me...?” Misfit whispered, taking a few steps back. Attacking Lori was useless, unless she could seize this moment of weakness, when the other girl wasn't carrying a powerset. She'd have to be fast, though... very fast.
“What do you think I'm gonna do? Kill you?” Lori allowed herself a little grin before her pale features turned back down into a snarl. “I should. I should do it for your slut of a mom!”
Charlie huffed and threw her eyemask down onto the couch. “My mom's dead, Lori. She got freaking blown up.” The redhead closed her eyes for a brief moment before taking a step towards Alice. “I get that you're stronger than me, you're stronger than anyone. You could make Superman say uncle. But I'm not going to stand here and let you say that. I always hated you – now I know why. You're a cruel, thoughtless, hateful person.”
“This isn't about strength!” Alice shouted, stepping forward to meet the other girl and giving her a forceful shove. “This is about you ruining mylife!”
“How the hell did I do that? What did I ever do to you?!”
“Your mom f***ed my dad!”
There was a long period of silence. Lori's hands balled up into strained fists, and Charlie stood dumbstruck. She had always wondered exactly... how, they were related. When the chemists at the Dark Side Club said that she and Lori were related, it had been as big of a shock to her as anyone else.
“I asked my dad if...” Lori took a deep breath, carefully straightening her back. She had to make sure she utilized the extra inch of height she had over Charlotte. “If he had any other children, besides me. It... took a while. He didn't want to tell me, he was hiding something. I...” Black Alice turned away for a moment, a look of shame coming over her face. “I used Wonder Woman's lasso of truth on him, to get a confession.”
Charlie successfully stifled a gasp with one hand. “What did...?”
“He had an affair with your mom a year after I was born. He wanted to elope with her, but she left him before they did. Ran off when she found out she was pregnant. When my mom found out... she fell into depression, and drugs. That's why... that's why she died. It's your fault.” Lori looked up and stepped forward again, grabbing Charlie by the shoulders and squeezing her. “It's your fault! If it wasn't for you my mom would still be alive! My dad would still be happy!”
Charlie struggled, pushing back and sending Lori skittering across the carpet with one hard shove. “How is that my fault? Because I was born? At least you have a living parent!”
“So do you,” Lori glared. “But you can't have him. He's mine!”
“I don't want him!” Misfit teleported out of the way of another enraged charge by the goth girl, bouncing behind her in a puff of violet smoke. “I found a new family! I... I found Oracle! I found Atlee! I don't want your dad!”
An intense red glow came over Lori's eyes as magical energies began to fill her. “You still ruined my family... you made me the way I am, just by being born. You ruined my life...” the girl began to slowly grow, slender muscles starting to bulge and ripple as her already-light skin growing into a pale, chalky color. Streaks of black surrounded her eyes, and her hair started slowly growing into a thick black mane. “...And I am gonna frag you so fraggin' hard for it!”
Misfit's eyes widened suddenly, and she bounced out of the way of another charge with a soft purple puff. “Lori, or... Lobori... please, listen to me! There was nothing I could do about it, do you think I wanted something bad for you? I can't help how I'm born, dammit!”
Her next bounce was too slow, as a thick white hand closed around her throat, holding her aloft and starting to carefully squeeze. “Youcould've! You ain't even sorry, ya stupid slitch! I'll never stop hating you!”
Charlie's eyes watered from the pain, gasping as she was slowly crushed by a girl who could currently punch out Superman. “Lori, I...” she groaned, a long, strained whine escaping her lips as her lungs struggled for air. “I... am... sorry... all I want is for you to be... happy...!”
“You're... you're lying! You just don't wanna die, ya fraggin' dame! All of you are the same, you'll say anything to save your own skin!” Those eyes. Those bulging crimson eyes – they didn't even belong to Lori. The rage inside of them was that of a far greater being, and Black Alice was losing control.
“Lori... please... don't – >kff< – do this...!”
Alice's eyes widened as her grip began to slip. Widened with... fear, or despair, or rage, Charlie couldn't honestly tell. But her body began to slowly reduce in size, her hair and eyes starting to return to normal. “Why did he have to be with her...?” she whispered softly as the frenzy subsided and her powers faded. “Why did he ruin our family?”
As Charlie's legs slowly settled to the carpet beneath her, she leaned in to wrap her arms around the other teen. She truly was sorry for what had happened, what was happening now. Lori didn't deserve this, even if she had handled the situation poorly, and Frost had escaped as a result. “I'm sorry,” she whispered. “I wish I could make it better.”
“You can't... and you'll never be able to.” Lori sniffled and pulled back, her big, dark blue eyes moist with tears. “I still hate you.”
There was a flash as Misfit's powers were suddenly robbed, and a blast of violet energy. Black Alice was gone – but Charlie was still alive.
The hulking figure grunted suddenly, jerking awake from a previously deep slumber. Dreams of dismembering smurfs were washed clean, and now he was back in his hotel room in Jump City. Barbara writhed sensually in his arms as he jerked awake, and her hazy green eyes were now gently opening to gaze up at him.
“What is it, czarnian?” she whispered lazily, draping one arm over his broad back and pulling herself a little more tightly against him.
“Not sure... indigestion'r somethin'. Feel fine now though.” Lobo took a deep breath and suddenly found his breath caught – one long belch later, and a satisfied grin came over his face. “Much better. Think that was it. Just a good gas-blast and the main man's good t'go.”
Barbara Ann Minerva rolled her eyes, waving one hand in front of her face in a helpless attempt to disperse the fumes. “You are a repulsive creature at times, you should know.”
“Sure I know, toots. Don't change nothin'. Anywho, better get some clothes on – the others are waiting for us in Metropolis I think. Prob'ly already late. Guess it was true that cats sleep all day, here I was hopin' ya'd wake me up.”
Cheetah allowed herself a small smile. “I'm sure we'll make it there in time for the fun to start.”
Atlee flopped down onto the couch of 'her' apartment, looking down at her feet. Everything had seemed to go so fast... too fast. Their entire mission had ended almost before it had started. The only thing they had succeeded in doing was giving Killer Frost exactly what she wanted – now Charlie had been dragged away by some strange girl, and Atlee was alone. Again.
“Hey kiddo, what's with the pout?” Came a sudden voice. A familiar voice. Atlee lifted her eyes and found herself staring dead-on into a pair of breasts no one could forget.
“...P-Peej...?” Atlee stammered, slowly craning her neck back and lifting her eyes farther upward. Sure enough, about a foot above the breasts was a familiar smirk, familiar blue eyes, and a familiar, golden frame of hair.
“I told you I'd come back, didn't I? Didn't take long.” There was trouble behind the kryptonian's eyes, trouble that Atlee didn't overlook. But that concern was shrouded in so much comfort and hope that the stratan soon forgot, tossing herself forward and inadvertently burying her face into Kara's chest.
“ImissedyousomuchIthoughtyouwouldnevercomebackeverything'sturnedintoabigpileofsuckreallyquickly!” Atlee squealed, squeezing her arms like vices around Kara's (or, to the rest of the world, Karen Starr's) waist. “Please don't leave like that again, I'm a terrible hero on my own! I can't save anyone!”
A beat passed, and Kara's brow furrowed as she attempted to digest what Atlee's motor-mouth was spitting out at her. She carefully took the stratan by the shoulders and held her out at arm's length, a brow cocked. “Atlee, it hasn't even been a week, what in the world are you talking about? Start from the beginning.”
The stratan fidgeted like a cornered rat. “Well, I was hungry and I went to get pizza, and then, um, I went to this arcade, and there was this girl there, and something about debit cards, and then I won and we had a slumber party, but she found out I was a superhero but it was okay because it turned out she was a superhero too! Her name is Charlie, you'll like her!” Atlee spat out each word like every second in spent in her mouth caused her physical damage. “Andandand... oh, but she had this thing that she got, but I didn't know what it was, and it turned out it belonged to Killer Frost, so we went looking for her but she wasn't in any refrigerators but then allllll the penguiiiiins and then there was this shark guy and he beat both of us and took us to Frost's evil lair--” The teen sucked in a deep, shuddering breath, “--And then there was this ice room and I think Frost might have molested us but then I told her where the thingy was and she went and got it and came back and was about to kill us, but then this girl showed up and scared Frost so bad she ran away but then she took Charlie into a portal and now they're both goooooone!” Another deep breath, and Atlee seemed to relax. “How was Mars?”
“Sucked, actually,” Kara intoned, her eyes wide. “Wait, you got molested?”
“I'm not sure.”
Kara stared blankly at the girl for a long moment, both women holding eerily still.
“So you don't know where your friend is?” Kara asked quietly.
“I have no idea.”
Both heads turned in sync to face the newest voice, belonging to that of a red-haired girl wearing a pleated skirt and a Flash shirt. She held up one hand in a friendly wave.
“Charlie!” Atlee gasped, flinging herself from Kara's arms towards her friend, embracing her tightly and causing a light 'unf' to forcefully escape the other girl.
“'Sup,” Charlie – or Misfit – said with a cheeky smirk, squeezing the other teen back. “How'd things go after I-- Atlee, is that Power Girl...?”
“Maybe,” Kara said with a grin.
Charlie's eyes darted from Atlee to Kara, finally staring at her friend incredulously. “Power Girl is here?”
“Yeah, I told you this is her apartment.”
“Well... but... does she... and Mars... and, boobs, I... Power Girl is here?!”
“Do you want to huuug her?” Atlee chirped, an unusually mischievous tone in her voice.
“No... no, I couldn't, I....”
Atlee turned to Power Girl, who was scratching the back of her neck awkwardly in the middle of the living room. “Peegeeeee, I think Charlie needs a hug. A special hug.”
“No, no-- Atlee, I-- don't make me--!” Misfit whimpered, slowly backing away and turning back for the door. By the time she had made a full 180 turn, she found her head entirely engulfed in soft flesh as the kryptonian woman's arms wrapped around her in the most glorious hug she had ever experienced. Her eyes rolled back, and a thin tendril of drool began to run down her lip.
“So she didn't kill you or maim you or replace you with a robot or anything?” Atlee inquired from her new position on the couch, munching from a massive metal bowl of popcorn. After a good five minutes to recover from the hug, and retrieving what little red hairs had gotten caught in Power Girl's 'window', storytime had started, and Charlie gave up the goodies on what had happened between her and Black Alice.
“Nope, nothing like that. Some crazy crap about me trying to steal her dad. I'd be surprised if we've seen the last of her but we'd better really hope that we don't. You remember how, before Superman became an icon and high-powered superheroes were still kind of obscure, nuclear bombs were considered like, unbelievably dangerous?”
Atlee nodded. Sprawled out on the rest of the couch, with her feet tucked behind the stratan's back, Kara offered a nod of her own.
“Well, Black Alice is like the new nuclear bomb, within the age of superheroes. As far as I know, she can't really be beaten.”
“Yeesh,” Kara grunted. It was odd – as much as she somewhat acted like 'one of the girls', she was different. She was experienced, she was wise. She was Power Girl. Despite her being as cool as it gets, it still almost felt like she was a chaperone – particularly for Charlie, who saw her as a symbol, a trademark. A legend.
“But if she isn't coming back right now, then we have bigger steaks to grill, right?” Atlee piped up.
Kara patted a hand onto the girl's shoulder. “Bigger fish to fry, Atz.”
“Right, bigger fish to fry. But really, what about Killer Frost? She's still out there, right?”
“Well... not exactly. When I heard about a city block getting encased in ice an hour ago, I had Frost become the first... ah, training mission, for the new JSA roster. I do believe she's safely in Belle Reve.” Kara coughed awkwardly. If she had known that Killer Frost was acting as 'nemesis' to Terra and her new partner, she may have handled things a... bit more delicately.
The pair of quivering bottom lips, however, and quartet of moist teenage eyes, quickly allowed her to catch on. “I mean, uh, I'm sure you guys--”
“We suuuck!” Atlee bawled.
“Epic superhero fail!” Charlie wailed in unison.
“No, no, no--” Kara shook her head, sitting up from her prone pose and leaning forward, wrapping an arm around each of the World's Finest. “You didn't fail. You guys did an amazing job, from everything I've heard. You showed unbelievable guts, both of you. Can you think of any of two teen heroes who would go up against some like Killer Frost, and King Shark?”
“N-no....” Atlee sniffled.
“I guess not....” Charlie pouted.
“You two may not have thrown asteroids at her, you may not have thrown her in jail. But you know what you did do?” Power Girl squeezed them both gently, before turning to the redhead. “Charlie, if you hadn't caught those thugs and taken that Heart-thing, who knows how much damage would have been done before Frost was stopped. And even though you could have teleported away and saved yourself at any time, you were going to stay the course because you weren't going to leave your friend behind. That takes the kind of courage and loyalty I don't even know if we have on the JSA.”
Charlie sniffed hard, her arms pressed together between her knees. “Yeah...?”
“And Atlee. You were going to risk everything, give Frost what she was looking for, just to save your friend from the ice-chamber. You sacrificed your only bargaining piece to do the right thing, and you gave your absolute all.”
“I... I did?” Atlee looked up, offering a tiny, hopeful smile.
“Maybe you didn't save the world all at once – you still have a lot of practice and training to go through. But today the two of you acted like true heroes, and I'm proud as hell of the both of you. You are the World's Finest.”
Both girls beamed and leaned into the veteran, Earth-2 hero, squeezing her tightly.
“But for now...” Kara continued, after a long breath. “Pizza party!”
Belle Reve stank of failure and disease. Every sadistic, superpowered wretch too cold to be deemed 'insane' was locked up here, rattling the bars of their specially-designed cages. The place was corrupt and sickening, with a revolving door that kept criminals coming in and going out, usually in body bags. “Task Force X”, she'd heard whispers of. A “Suicide Squad” where the warden yanked the chains and sent criminals dancing on strings any way she wanted them too.
Crystal blew out a glimmering plume of sub-zero air, tracing patterns in it with her fingers. This had gone well. Let the world forget that Killer Frost was at the height of her power, bide her time... plot in the darkness of her cell. They'd never see it coming when her true plans finally came to fruition.
Another icy breath on the wall of her cell, fogging up the cool chrome and encasing it with an icy sheen. Crystal reached out one pale, slender finger, carefully drawing a simple pattern on the brushed metasteel.
That's all folks! <3 After this, Terra and Misfit are going on an indefinite hiatus, though they you may see some cameos in the pages of DC Mayhem: Justice Society of America! I had a ton of fun dreaming this up and getting it finished, and I really hope that the rest of you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Ta ta for now. MAYHEM!